A dolphin that got stranded in a narrow channel in Southern California wetlands became the center of attention on Friday as several motorists stopped on a busy highway to watch it as it swam in circles in the shallow waters.
Reuters reports the 7-foot, 700-pound (317kg) mammal was sighted on Friday morning in Bolsa Bay, 30 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles in the Orange County community of Huntington Beach.
According to Kelly O'Reilly, reserve manager for the California Department of Fish and Game, the dolphin was swimming in wetlands near a flood-control gate close to the beach. She said the dolphin would find its way back to open seas when the tide comes in but would have to swim more than 3 miles. Reuters reports: "That is because the path the dolphin took to get into the wetlands is not a direct route to the ocean. It skirts the edge of the coast, passing through a marina where boats are docked outside multi-million dollar homes."
Rescue workers decided not to intervene or get close to the dolphin. O'Reilly said: "It could smack us and break our ribs, or knock out our teeth or something. Far better for the animal and us if we just give it some space, back off and as the water gets deeper, hopefully it will figure out how to get out of here."
USA Today reports Dean Gomersall of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center says the decision to wait was made after a swimmer and lifeguard on paddle boats approached the animal. According to Gomersall, the strong and fast dolphin would not let them get close, and the animal could hurt anyone that approaches it.
O'Reilly said the water in which the animal was swimming is only about six-feet deep. She said that was the first incident to her knowledge of a dolphin entering the wetland.
Hundreds of people lined up to watch the dolphin and traffic along the four-lane Pacific Coast Highway slowed as drivers stopped to see the animal while TV helicopters flew overhead, The Washington Post reports.
Reuters reports rescue workers say if the dolphin fails to find its way back to open sea they will approach it in paddle boards and kayaks and try to nudge it in the right direction.